Special teams & turnovers helping Cyclones

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In taking a look at conference-game only statistics for the football season, it’s pretty easy to identify the areas that have led to the Cyclones’ good start.

Iowa State is ninth among league schools in both scoring offense and scoring defense. The teams’ conference record of 3-2, however, is the sixth-best in the Big 12. What are the key factors accounting for the difference?

It is not unusual for coaches to say that winning the “other” phase of the game (special teams) and protecting the ball (turnover margin) usually determine winners and losers. The Cyclones have won their share of games this year because of these two factors.

The Cyclones’ turnover margin in league play is a plus-7. That is three better than the second-place team. Iowa State’s national ranking for turnover margin is tied for ninth.

The only other team statistic in which Iowa State ranks in the nation’s Top 40 is punt returns (35th). That’s a great transition to taking a closer look at the Cyclones’ special teams.

Iowa State is second in the Big 12 (league games only) for both punt returns (thanks to Josh Lenz’ 62-yard TD return last week) and punting (Kirby Van Der Kamp is the #2-rated freshman punter in the nation). The kickoff coverage unit is fourth and the KOR team is seventh.

The next time you hear a coach share the cliché about turnovers and special teams, you might give it a bit more consideration.

Reader feedback is welcome at 2minutetimeout@iastate.edu. You can also follow me on Twitter at: twitter.com/SteveMalchow

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